Dante: I'm not sure. I like working with people... But I like being alone, too...
Sheldon: How about being a mortician — best of both worlds.
Dante: Heeeey... Not bad.
Be they morticians, pathologists, funeral house workers or gravediggers — people who deal with the dead have always been assumed to be interesting, because, well, they deal with the dead. That is why in fiction, it is popular to present workers in those professions as either outright creepy, or at least have a way-off sense of humor. Especially if they don't look creepy (or aren't normally so), looking at something like this for the first time can creep any guy out. They play around with the bodies of the deceased, joke while performing scientific dissections, or at least die first during a zombie attack. They are also suspect for profiting from someone else's death; after all, such a person may seem a little too happy about the fact that, now that someone has died, the mortician is going to get paid for the funeral.
The trope can just be Played for Laughs as well as Played for Drama, with often a lot of overlap between the two. The more unsettling version lurks around the graveyard and has an unhealthy obsession with his deceased clients. When they're not in the graveyard, they can be found in rather eerie places, such as near newly deceased bodies or in coffins. Often they are the primary suspect whenever something particularly creepy happens. May turn out to be a Living Doll Collector, a Necrophille, or an outright evil Necromancer. Prone to spout ominous-in-context lines like "Be seeing you..."
- The Undertaker from Black Butler. Even creepier in the Manga, where it is revealed, by him, that he is the one responsible for the reanimation of the corpses that were attacking everyone on board the ship. And that was just because he was curious! Justified in that he's actually a Shinigami rather than a human — and a rogue amongst their ranks, in the manga.
- Gregory Horror Show is built around this. Good old Gregory is downright unnerving, especially as you learn more about what he is. He suffers from Villain Decay in the other three seasons, however, becoming a victim of the greater evils around him. Still, he does feed off of human souls.
- Green Lantern villain Black Hand was reinvented as one of these in the lead-up to Blackest Night.
- Lucky Luke: Undertakers are recurring characters in this series, usually using formol as perfume, named Mortimer or Rigor O'Mortis, have vultures as pets and already coming to take measurements for the coffins before the cowboys are actually shot down. The most recurring undertaker has a pale skin color, sometimes green and creep out almost anyone they talk to (it doesn't help that to express their gratitude by with custom-fitted coffin). Subverted in a few strips where one is shown to play violin at a party (all for the sake of a Life of the Party pun) or when one, after a burial, asks if anybody wants to use his cabs to go back in town and say.
Undertaker: Driving someone to the saloon would have been nice for a change.
- The main character of Rachel Rising has an Aunt Johnny that has been working as a mortician for a long time. While she's not creepy, she is much more used to being around the dead than the living at this point, so she's a little rough in the social skills department, and the ways that her mind distracts her during her work hours leaves her just slightly disconnected from reality at the start of the first volume, until Rachel brings her back to Earth.
Aunt Johnny: Spend 20 years with corpses and see how you end up, smartass.
- Tony Todd's character, William Bludworth, in the first two and fifth Final Destination movies seemed to know a lot more about recent goings-on than he let on. Oh, and he also sounded like the Antichrist.
- This character is a staple of bad movies, if the morticians of Mystery Science Theater 3000 are any indication.
- The mortician from Agent for HARM, for example (played by Robert Donner, better known as Exidor from Mork & Mindy):
Morgue Attendant: [grinning] Mr. Chance? Dr. Stefanik? May I present Mr. Henry Manson? [solemnly] I'll prepare the autopsy room.
Mike Nelson: My apologies for my odd performance.
- There's also Smolkin, the gravedigger in The Undead who'll sing death or plague-related songs on a dime.
- The mortician from Agent for HARM, for example (played by Robert Donner, better known as Exidor from Mork & Mindy):
- Very subtly played in The Return of the Living Dead, which you could easily think to be an inversion. Ernie the mortician is strongly implied to be an ex-Nazi: when we first meet him, he's listening to a World War II German march on his headphones, and when startled, he produces a Luger. Later on, we see a poster of Eva Braun in his office.
- The Phantasm films have the Tall Man, adding a touch of Humanoid Abomination for effect.
- The mortician Dobbs in Dead & Buried is a bit too interested in making the bodies presentable. He's also turned everyone in town, including himself, into a zombie.
- The title character in Cemetery Man, despite being a handsome Rupert Everett, is still pretty crazy and spooky.
- In the 1993 anthology film Body Bags John Carpenter portrays the Coroner, a wacky character who has a twisted fascination with the corpses he gets every night and hosts the framing segments. Among other things he holds conversations with the dead people around him and even plays around with some of them. Subverted at the end when he turns out to be another corpse come to life when the real coroners appear.
- Played with in Rachel, Rachel. Rachel's mortician father isn't all that creepy really—but Rachel is, taking an unhealthy interest in her father's job. She goes so far as to get a flower and climb into a coffin that has been put out for the dead child her father is working on at that moment.
- Van Helsing: The Transylvanian village as a really creepy gravedigger wearing a top hat, who welcomes the protagonists. And later tries to kill Van Helsing for... some reason. He is eventually killed by Velkan in his werewolf form, and upon dying, rolls into the grave he was digging.
- In Neil Gaiman's American Gods, Ibis and Jacquel's Funeral Parlor is run by two Egyptian gods, one of whom (Anubis) consumes a part of every organ of the deceased. This actually lines up with Anubis' mythological portrayal, and it's implied that him taking part of the heart in particular is actually a sign of great respect.
- Averted (bordering on discussing this trope) in one of Dean Koontz's novels, where it is specifically stated that the morgue crew the protagonists meet are totally unlike the stereotypical image of their profession in fiction.
- According to the Discworld Companion, the Guild of Gravediggers, Embalmers and Allied Trades, like all Ankh-Morpork guilds, cultivates a certain image in its members, which in this case includes training in morbid humour and ventriloquism.
- The mincing, Ambiguously Gay Dennis Rainbird from Midsomer Murders. He even drives a Porsche with a RIP license plate, and one of the first things he says about a murder victim is how she prepaid for the most expensive funeral service, with a tone implying that he's very much looking forward to it. He and his mother are the town gossips and way too involved in everyone else's affairs, which makes them suspicious from the start but they turn out to be a Red Herring and are killed by the actual murderer.
- Averted in The Munsters. Herman works in a funeral parlor and Lily apparently has her hair done by a mortician.
- The CSI series and its spinoffs, as most criminal shows, features forensic pathologists as side characters. A few one-shot funeral home workers also get this treatment to some degree. They're particularly fond of one-liners whenever they find anything interesting about the person's corpse or death during the autopsy. Especially CSI NY, where Sid's sense of humor got a Fan Nickname — "Sid's creepy place":
Sid: [after finding a ringing phone inside a victim of the week] My very first dead ringer.
- Murdoch Mysteries has a woman pathologist as one of the main characters — a lady capable of "quoting poetry while cutting a man's body open". While Murdoch loves Julia, he's never quite got used to "morgue humour", as lampshaded in a season 10 episode where the new morgue assistant thinks her own attempt has offended him, and Julia tells her not to worry about it.
- Six Feet Under, a series about a family-run funeral home, subverts this trope. The characters have their issues, but they always attempt to treat the deceased with respect and provide some consolation to the families.
- Kolchak: The Night Stalker has morgue attendant Gordon "Gordy the Ghoul" Spangler, an exceedingly chipper fellow who runs a lottery at the morgue for crime reporters.
- Sam leaps into a mortician in an episode of Quantum Leap, who was already regarded as rather distasteful by the people in town, and then he starts trying to solve the murder of his most recent corpse, asking questions and pawing through her things. Since he is the protagonist it doesn't really play that way, but when a guy whose job involves his arms being elbow-deep in the recently deceased starts demanding answers to questions about your sex life....
- NCIS gives us Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard. His habits include going into unnecessary detail in describing what he is doing around the team, talking to those he is performing an autopsy on, and his criminal psychology degree means that he talks about the mess in a killer's mind with almost as much detail as he describes the mess in the body of their victims. Also, Gibbs will occasionally bring an uncooperative suspect down so Ducky can explain to them exactly what will happen to their bodies if they don't start cooperating.
- Due South had Mort, who would sing opera while doing his autopsies.
- My Name Is Earl had Mr. Hammerick (played by John Waters), who liked to arrange the deceased in what he called the "Living Tableau". That is, he would arrange them for viewing, not in a coffin, but posed doing their favorite thing. (This isn't always popular with the families, who often wish for a more traditional burial, which he finds to be cliched and boring.)
- Monty Python's Flying Circus had a sketch about an undertaker who wanted to eat a man's dead mother.
- The Vodoun/voodoo deity Baron Samedi a.k.a. Saturday takes this appearance. In some lore he lurks in graveyards looking for people to turn into zombies.
- While The Undertaker more fit the Western trope early in his career (and still has a few hints of it), his former manager Paul Bearer fit this to a T, with pale skin, modern black suits, and a really creepy high-pitched voice. Even better, William Moody, who portrayed Bearer, really had worked as a mortician before becoming a pro wrestling manager. Moody maintained his mortician certifications all the while he was a wrestling manager, and returned to the funeral trade after his time as a wrestling manager ended. He told of several times someone at a funeral would recognize him, and want to take a picture of him with the recently-deceased. He always declined.
- The '40s and '50s radio (and later TV) sitcom The Life Of Riley had a comedic version of this in Riley's pal Digby "Digger" O'Dell, "The Friendly Undertaker", who specialized in hilariously morbid puns referencing his line of work, such as his usual greeting ("Hello, Riley. You're looking very... natural today") and signoff ("Well, goodbye, Riley. I'd better be... shoveling off").
- Played for Laughs in The Goon Show with Gravely Headstone, as in the following (quoted from memory):
Seagoon: You can't bury me, I'm still alive! It's impossible!
Headstone: Not impossible, but one should have to box exceeding clever.
Seagoon: No, wait, you can't bury me yet — I want to join the Guards.
Headstone: No man under six foot can join the Guards. Come along.
Seagoon: No, no! Keep away! Aaagh!
- Hamlet fits into this trope with the gravedigger, digging a grave while joking about who is to be buried there.
- Oliver!, both the stage and film versions, has a whole family like this. They even get a song, "That's Your Funeral". In the film this is downplayed, the song is removed and Mr. Sowerberry is rather partial to his drink.
- The Caretaker from Universal's Halloween Horror Nights is a soft-spoken mortician and surgeon that dug up bodies from numerous graves to use for company, furniture, or even as a dinner ingredient. He's not any more kind to living, either; as he kidnaps innocents to use as guinea pigs for "living, breathing autopsies".
- The gravedigger in Quest for Glory IV is a creepy hunchback who is nonetheless friendly and helpful despite his... unusual sense of humor. His name is Igor, too.
- Dampe from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is often seen lurking around the graveyard when you are young Link, it gets kind of unsettling what with the Poes that also lurk around there. Bizarrely enough, a cute little kid idolizes Dampe and spends daytime wandering around the graves trying to mimic the gravedigger. He pays you a lot of rupees for a spooky mask that helps offset his cuteness.
- The creepy gravedigger in God of War. Actually Zeus in disguise.
- Mr. Russett from The Lost Crown is a subversion: he looks fairly creepy, but is actually one of the most helpful people Nigel meets.
- Kohlingen's undertaker in Final Fantasy VI gives off the strong impression of having been driven mad by his chemicals. While Locke is explaining his tragic backstory to Celes, complete with the minor-key version of his Leitmotif setting the mood, the undertaker bounces around the room giggling about how perfectly he's preserved the corpse of Locke's Lost Lenore, Rachel.
- The Backwater Gospel features an undertaker who simply sits and waits...
- The undertaker from Nomad of Nowhere is a jovial, almost friendly fellow who just wants to help the Nomad... by kidnapping him and having him learn necromancy against his will. He shows a callous disregard for the "lives" of several Critters that the Nomad animates and doesn't understand why "killing" them upsets the Nomad, indulges in Black Comedy that a bounty hunter finds offensive and unprofessional, and is more than willing to dissect the Nomad For Science! if he has to.
- Tex Avery MGM Cartoons:
- The first Droopy cartoon, "Dumb Hounded", has the wolf character jump off a building while a mortician suddenly appears next to him during the fall, takes his coffin measurements and then disappears again.
- It looks like the same mortician in Avery's "Li'l 'Tinker" as a skunk tries to attract girls by impersonating Frank Sinatra, he walks up behind him while singing and takes measurements (one of many morbid "Frankie is skinny" gags).
- In its first Halloween episode, South Park featured morticians eating while preparing Kenny's body, and accidentally spilling sauce into the embalming fluid. And this of course leads to a Zombie Apocalypse.
- The Simpsons: Homer and Bart visit a funeral parlor run by a creepy Vincent Price type. When Bart gets locked in a coffin and starts screaming in terror he chuckles, "Ohh, the living!"
- In Gravedale High, the bus driver Boneyard resembles this trope. He dresses similarly to a mortician and the bus he drives looks like a hearse.